Business or Theology — or Both?

By Brian Duggan

Running a ministry organization is a tough job.

I’ve always admired the pastors of churches with little to no other staff who can take the burden of administration off their shoulders.  These pastors have been called to serve according to their pastoral gifts, which may not necessarily include administrative gifts.  Boards can come around them and fill in those gaps, but there often is a tension between what is perceived as the difference between a ministry and a business.

Mission organizations are no different.  Missionaries are expected to have a clear sense of their spiritual gifts, but the administrative gift is not always perceived as a spiritual gift from God.

Tensions rise when vision, strategy and tactics are put into place.  The derogatory, “This is a ministry, not a business” phrase is often heard.  But Christ-followers can come from many different mindsets that cover the spectrum of God’s diverse abundance in gifting his people for the building up of the body of Christ.  If a theologically minded servant can be valued for his knowledge, so a business-minded servant can be valued for his skills, as well.

The Apostle Paul used strong language in addressing the problem of some folks who looked down on others because their gifts were different.  He even gets a little sarcastic, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’”  That’s ridiculous.  The same goes for our approach to planning, problems and vision.  The eye will see it from one angle, the hand will feel it from another.  Both have been given their unique ways of looking at things, and both should consider the other’s perspective as valuable as their own.

A person with a theological mindset will first ask, “What does the Bible have to say about this?”  The business-oriented mind will first ask, “What is the best method for achieving this goal?”  Both are good questions. In fact, each question may be asked by both people — just in a different order.

Should a ministry have good vision, strategies, tactics and measurements?  Yes.  Should that ministry submit those plans to the spotlight of scripture?  Yes. And there is always that last unpredictable variable: What is God’s leading through the Holy Spirit? In spite of our theological expertise and business experience, the Holy Spirit sometimes takes us down a road we never could have predicted or expected.

Sometimes a team has to say, “This isn’t what we would come up with ourselves but we perceive God’s guidance and we’ll follow.”  That’s how Paul and Barnabas got started in the missionary adventure in the first place.

If it was good enough for them, maybe it’s good enough for us.

Brian Duggan is the international leader for Latin America-Caribbean for EFCA-ReachGlobal. He can be reached at

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